Debate: Zion Williamson wants to play college basketball. With potential for injury, should he rethink his plans?

When Zion Williamson’s foot burst through his sneaker 30 seconds into the most-anticipated game of the season, he exposed the entire NCAA and Nike apparel retailers who skim millions off of his freakish potential.

As Williamson’s sole separated from the shoe, it became clear that the NCAA has turned a premier secondary education into a risk that a talent he can’t afford to take. This June, Williamson will instantly join a carousel of millionaires. He’s expected to draw at least $40 million — and that number could skyrocket.

College is so profitless for great athletes that someone like Williamson has little, if anything, to gain. It’s no surprise greats like Scottie Pippen are saying he should shut it down. Setting foot on the court at Duke again only help those profiting from his likeness and jeopardize his future income is a punishment he shouldn’t have to take.

Tickets to the Duke-North Carolina game sold for $4,000 for the good seats. That’s great news for athletic directors and coaches who are some of the highest-paid in the industry, drawing multi-million dollar salaries. Without Williamson, the market price for guys like Mike Kryszewski and Roy Williams decreases. Ironically, the one guy not getting paid Nike, sponsors or rich-pocketed donors was the guy who most deserved it.

High-profile college football players have started sitting out post-season games and it’s no surprise why. Putting themselves out there — risking injury and all — only jeopardizes a multi-million dollar future. And it’s not the NCAA that’s about to make a change. Both recognizing the dilemma, the NBA is more likely to act and give players a chance to enter the league at 17.

Williamson sitting out takes away from high-spirited edge-of-your-seat nostalgia in college sports. But it’s only a matter of time.

— Evan Pflugradt

Zion Williamson suffered a mild knee sprain and the media is blowing it out of the water. They’re calling this setback an opening to the polarizing issue with college sports. It’s not.

Williamson is plain and simple the best player in college basketball. He’s loaded with raw talent that is simply unmatched. He brings a new kind of excitement to college basketball — that was clear when the Duke-North Carolina game attracted Spike Lee and former president Barack Obama.

But when did everyone only care about the money?

Williamson will get paid regardless. Come June, he’ll join a class of millionaires. He’ll get every endorsement deal imaginable, and sign record contracts with whatever shoe company wants him.

Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley — they all played three years of college. Tim Duncan played for four. The sport’s greatest players all played college basketball.

Williamson not playing is clownish. He’s the proven No. 1 pick, what more does he have to lose?

Joel Embiid left Kansas prone to injury. He played, and it did him no favors. His career at Kansas was cut short, but that didn’t jeopardize his NBA potential.

He had foot surgery six days before the NBA Draft and was still taken as the No. 3 pick. Look at him today. He’s one of the best post-players in the world, and he’s cashing in on a $148 million contract.

WIlliamson shouldn’t hesitate. Lace ‘em up and get back out there.

— Marshall Sunner